I used to be pretty good at beating myself up.

I’d lie in bed at night for hours running over all the ways I’ve ever failed (there are lots!) but neglecting the ways I’d done well.

I expect a lot from myself. And so I’d get disappointed when I’m anything less than perfect.

So my new year’s resolution last year was simple:

Be kind to myself.

As in… exceptionally kind. This meant changing my thought patterns and default habits.

What I realised is that when I am kind to myself, I am so much more confident. I no longer rely on compliments from others to feel good.

Because I’m kind to myself, I don’t feel tied to other people’s opinions. I care less about what other people think. I love my body more. And it feels fantastic.

When I'm kind to myself, I am so much more confident. Image: Lyndi Cohen
When I’m kind to myself, I am so much more confident. Image: Lyndi Cohen

To be kind to yourself is to love yourself.

Being kind is the act. The result is loving yourself.

Start with the act. The feeling will follow.

During my quest for self-love, people often told me to ‘talk to yourself like you’re talking to your best friend’.

To be honest? I’ve always found that advice tricky to implement.

I wanted something more practical. So I went looking. And here’s what I learned from my year being kind to myself.

First up…

Being kind to yourself means loving yourself enough to:

  1. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Choosing to remind yourself that you are already enough.
  2. To focus on your best qualities, rather than zeroing in on your inadequacies.
  3. And to say ‘no’ when people ask too much of you (and know that the temporary discomfort you might experience in doing so is far better than resenting them or yourself for saying yes later).

Being kind to yourself isn’t something you just wake up and decide to do one morning. It’s a process. An act…

It’s something you have to actively choose to do every day.

Here are some simple things I’ve done over the last year or so that have helped me be kinder to myself.

14 ways to be kind to yourself

1. Notice your thinking

The first step? Realise when you’re giving yourself a hard time.

If you don’t even realise when you’re beating yourself up, it’s really hard to change.

When I lie in bed at night now, and a negative thought comes into my head, I simply try and notice it. I might say to myself “Oh, this is comparison” or “this is anxiety”.

See how I try to separate the emotion from me… (I.e. This is comparison VS You are comparing).

I try not to lurch into “Oh Lyndi, you’re comparing yourself again. Stop it! You’ve been awake for hours already. You need to sleep!” because that’s not very kind. And it doesn’t help.

This is surprisingly simple and wonderfully powerful.

2. Make your lunch first

I know a lot of people who care for a family. People who make everyone else lunch but then leave nothing for themselves.

If this is you, it’s time to change.

It’s time to give to yourself as you give to others.

Yes, I’m telling you to put your mask on first. But more practically, make your sandwich first. Or at least, make it a priority to give to yourself what you give to others.

I’m not telling you to be selfish. Just reminding you that you’re allowed to take up space, to ask for your fair share and be incredibly kind to yourself.

If you find this challenging, this podcast episode might help. My wonderful co-host Jenna and I are talking about the importance of taking time for yourself, while you are caring for other humans – and the impact it can have on your self-esteem and mental health.

3. Challenge your social media time

You might think scrolling on social media is ‘downtime’, but social media is an exchange of energy.

Social media requires energy from you. It takes from you…

This might be why you feel tired or drained or shit after using it. Or why you feel like you never have time for yourself.

When you’re already feeling a bit crappy, the last thing you want to do is look at someone else’s highlight reel. While I actively try and point out the BS you see on social on my Instagram, it’s kind of hard to avoid.

But if you’re a smart cookie (and I know you are), then you’ll know you can take control of your feed.

Here are some lovely accounts I recommend following and here are some more tips on how to create a healthier relationship with your body and self with social media.

I’m also loving newsfeed eradicator to help me get off Facebook.

4. Detox your feed

On a similar note, get rid of anyone on your social media feed that makes you feel anything less than amazing and inspired. And be ruthless.

Culling those offending accounts is essential.

They don’t even have to know you’ve unfollowed them, thanks to the ‘mute’ function on Instagram. (Just click the three dots on the right, next to their photo to mute them).

If you want to be kind yourself, I also highly recommend not using the ‘search’ function on Instagram (that’s the magnifying glass thingy).

5. Accept compliments

Compliments used to fly right past me while criticism would punch me in the face. And when I decided I would start accepting compliments, I started to feel more worthy.

I don’t mean that you should come to rely on compliments for your confidence or self-worth, but I do think that sometimes others can help us remember that we are worthy in those moments when it’s easy to forget.

Swap the usual “What, this old thing?!” for a simple and gracious “Thank you so much”.

6. Keep a compliment diary

I know, I know — it seems a little self-indulgent.

But I actually do this.

I keep a log of all the lovely things people say about me. Otherwise, I forget. And then at 2 am, all I can remember are the ways I’m no good or have failed.

So when someone sends me a lovely note or a friend gives me a genuine compliment, I save it in a word document on my computer. Or in the notes section on my phone. Or in a journal next to my bed.

Sounds weird. Totally works.

When you need to pick yourself up on a down day, you can read through the compliments.

It's easy to forget all the wonderful things people say about you. A compliment diary can help. Image: Unsplash
It’s easy to forget all the wonderful things people say about you. A compliment diary will help you remember. Image: Unsplash

7. Don’t assume you’re the problem

If someone is being rude to you, is it your default to assume you’ve done something wrong? For example, “they obviously don’t like me?” or “maybe it was something I said?”

Apparently, women are most likely to assume fault in these kinds of situations.

Truth is, you don’t actually know what they’re thinking or what’s going on in their life and the far more likely scenario is that it’s got nothing to do with you.

Be self-aware – sure – but also, practise giving less $#!ts about what other people (may or may not) think about you.

If someone doesn’t like you, that’s ok. It’s not your job in life to be liked by everyone.

8. Comfort yourself

When I notice negative thoughts circling my head, I actively switch to my mother voice. This is that kind, soothing voice that says “it’s okay, you did your best .

Find your mother voice and use it often.

Perspective is everything… Remind yourself that it’s not your job to be perfect from every angle. You are made for bigger and better things.

9. Ask: ‘What can this teach me?

When you mess up, it can feel easy to beat yourself up with “You’ve ruined it again. What a waste! Now you have to start again”.

But messing up – or being imperfect (aka human) – is never a waste of time.

Because there is always something to be gained or learned from it.

When you next screw up, or find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, ask yourself: ‘what can I learn from this?’

You’ll start to see that nothing is really ruined or a waste of time because it has a purpose.

Every situation can teach you something. Even just sitting in traffic can help you practice patience.

I also like to write things down. It helps me get the thought out of my head. (hello journal that sits next to my bed). Once it’s on paper, it feels like closure.

10. Get a mantra

Honestly… How wishy-washy does the word ‘mantra’ sound? Any way.

While I am yet to accept the word ‘mantra’, I have started using mantras and find they really help.

My psychologist taught me this one which I’m practising and enjoying recently:

“I am enough. I am essential”.

I used to love “I accept myself and I accept others” which helped me with my perfectionism/expectations.

For me, a mantra acts as a circuit breaker for the brain, helping me notice unhelpful thinking and ‘change the channel’ like flicking the remote control.

When I go into comparison mode, this is my plan:

a) First I note: “This is comparison” then…

b) I repeat my mantra then I try to

c) change the channel.

Rinse and repeat as needed.

I took these photos one hour apart - just different sunlight. You can't compare yourself to someone else's highlights reel. Image: Lyndi Cohen
I took these photos one hour apart – just different sunlight. You can’t compare yourself to someone else’s highlights reel. Image: Lyndi Cohen

10. Forgive yourself for not being perfect

It is not your job in life to be perfect… or to get everything right. You do not need to look perfect from every angle or have everyone like you.

You were made for so much more.

If you’re being hard on yourself, it’s because you’re expecting perfection.

It’s OK to have high standards, to dream big. It’s not OK to be angry with yourself when you mess up. You can want a lot for your life – and also let go of the perfectionism that’s holding you back.

Perhaps you’re scared that people won’t like you as much if they work out you aren’t perfect (cool/pretty/thin enough)?

Interestingly, when you show your imperfect side, people tend to like you MORE. That’s because it’s a relief when we find out someone else also isn’t perfect – just like us!

When you turn up as you are, others can sigh in relief because they can also finally let down their pretences and be who they are. And that’s much more lovely than everyone pretending to be what they aren’t. Don’t ya think?

11. Watch comedy

Okay, this one might sound silly but research backs it up. When you’re sad, you naturally want to listen to sad, melancholic music and happy people can be a bit annoying.

But watching comedy can take your mind off things, remind yourself that life isn’t all doom and gloom and elevate a sucky mood.

Treat yourself to some Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Bojack or whatever show tickles your fancy.

Humour helps relieve pain and stress, and also improves your overall sense of well-being. Ever heard of laughter therapy? Image: Unsplash
Humour helps relieve pain and stress, and also improves your overall sense of well-being. Ever heard of laughter therapy? Image: Unsplash

12. Find someone to listen

No, I don’t mean your mum, or your best friend, or your hairdresser. I mean a professional, who is paid to listen.

Some people get massages when they’re feeling down but I see a counsellor and it’s one of the kindest things I do for myself.

You go to the gym for your body, why not exercise your brain?

13. Practice saying no

Feel too tired to go out or help someone else? That is ok. You don’t have to.

I remind myself:

Say no now so you won’t have to regret it later.

I’d rather have short-term discomfort than long-term resentment.

Yes, it feels uncomfortable to say no but it gets easier and while saying no to someone else can feel unkind, you know it’s an incredibly kind thing to do for yourself.

14. Meditate

I’d love to tell you I do this all the time. But I don’t. I’m working on it. I always feel better, more grounded, confident and less anxious when I do meditate.

Meditation feels like the ultimate way to be kind to yourself.

So I needed to pop ‘meditate’ in this list because being kind to myself is also accepting I don’t need to have arrived at my destination to help other people.

And maybe you, lovely reader, can leave a comment below or on social media and share tips on how you learned to meditate consistently.

Need more support to be kind to yourself?

You’d love my app Back to Basics. The whole idea is to teach you to embrace a gentle approach to health – quick recipes, workouts you actually enjoy with mindset videos from me because real health is all about your mindset. Enjoy it FREE for 7-days.

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